In yet another one of the scandals beleaguering New York State politics in recent years, former State Senator Hiram Monserrate was sentenced to 24 months in prison today after pleading guilty in May to mail fraud charges.
Mr. Monserrate was convicted of misusing $109,000 in City Council grants to fund a failed State Senate campaign in 2006. A member of the City Council at the time, Mr. Monserrate directed the money to a group in his Queens district, the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment.
A Department of Investigation probe found in May that LIBRE spent the funds on a petition drive, registering voters on Mr. Monserrate’s behalf and paying employees to work on his campaign.
“Hiram Monserrate helped to underwrite his political ambitions with money that was intended to benefit those in need, and he corrupted his office in the process,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “He stands in a long line of recent public officials whose crimes have undermined the public’s confidence in its elected officials. His sentence should serve as a reminder that public officials who break the law will be forced to answer to the public they betrayed, and they will be punished.”
Mr. Monserrate joined the State Senate in 2008, where was a part of a breakaway conference of Democrats known as the “four Amigos.” Refusing to caucus with Democrats, Mr. Monserrate orchestrated a coup in 2009 and briefly allied with Republicans. Mr. Monserrate would later return to Democratic fold. The timing of his sentencing today is interesting, of course, as Albany is currently embroiled in drama surrounding a breakaway Democratic conference that some critics have likened to the four Amigos.
After being convicted of domestic assault against his girlfriend, Mr. Monserrate became the first state legislator in nearly a century to be expelled from the Senate. He would lose his seat in a special election to State Sen. Jose Peralta, now a candidate for Queens Borough President.
“Hiram Monserrate was undone by his greed and now will pay the price,” Dept. of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said.